Proving the Exception: Coexistence between human and lions is possible

Handsome male lion Martii, one of the Guardian's favourites

It has been all over the news recently – every headline painting a grim future for wild lions, a future where they could potentially disappear completely. According to a recent study, lion populations in West, Central and East Africa are likely to drop by 50% in the next twenty years. But the continuing cub boom and growing lion population in the community lands that surround Amboseli National Park in southern Kenya, paint a different and more hopeful picture. Over the last decade, scientists and researchers have documented a tripling in the lion population density and a greater than 90% reduction in retaliatory killing of lions. In short, a conservation success story.

Handsome male lion Martii, one of the Guardian’s favourites. Photo by Philip J Briggs.

Key to this success story is the active involvement of local communities who derive socio-economic benefits by leading conservation efforts to protect lions. Local Maasai warriors have partnered with scientists Leela Hazzah and Stephanie Dolrenry to form the conservation organization Lion Guardians that, together with the anti-poaching organization Big Life, have made a significant contribution to saving lions in the area.

Roughly a decade ago a group of Maasai warriors expressed to Leela and Stephanie who were working to conserve lions in the region that they (the warriors) were best placed to protect lions. They had the knowledge and ability to track lions, but they were also the one’s actually killing them.

A Guardian looking for lion tracks in the shadow of Mt Kilimanjaro. Photo by Philip J Briggs

Leela and Stephanie were unclear whether this concept would work – the warriors had never been to school or held paying jobs. To build their capacity to monitor lions and mitigate conflicts with communities they would need to be taught to read and write. Most importantly, —> Read More